A Simple Guide for Caregivers for Rosh Hashanah with your Senior

As the advent of the Jewish New Year draws near, Jewish people respond with thought and actions. Tradition tells us that decisions about a person’s welfare for the year are made by G-d on this day. Many spend the two days of the holiday in the synagogue praying special prayers and listening to the shofar’s blasts.

In addition, festive meals shared with family include symbolic foods that are accompanied by prayers for a sweet, successful new year. These include the traditional apple and honey, round challah breads, head of a fish, and a pomegranate to name a few.

Most Jewish people visit their loved ones in the cemetery before during the weeks before Rosh Hashanah. This is different than the traditional visit on the anniversary of the loved one’s death (yahrzeit). Instead of  sadness at  the reminder of the absence of loved ones, we take strength from the fact that there is goodness and bliss in the afterlife for dear ones.


Take the time to pay a virtual visit to the cemetery with your senior. Say some prayers with him and her. Psalms are a traditional choice, especially the verses of chapter 119 that spell out the Hebrew name of the departed one. Give him or her private time to commune with the soul of the departed one as well as with G-d. You may want to encourage your senior to donate some money to charity at this time in the merit of the deceased as well as to merit a good year. This is a practice that a Jewish senior will want to engage in.

Plan to decorate the home of your senior together with him or her. Cut out images from free Jewish calendars, New Year’s cards, and Jewish symbols relating to Rosh Hashanah (apples, shofars, prayer books, etc.). Back them with stiff contrasting paper, punch holes, and thread with colorful yarn. You can hang this garland over the front door, a mirror, or near the place where the holiday candles are lit. You can also print out some coloring pages from the internet and enjoy a relaxing adult coloring activity together with holiday songs playing in the background.

Whether or not your senior will be in the synagogue this year, plan her wardrobe together for the holiday. Festive clothing and jewelry will heighten anticipation of the yearly rituals. Take them out. Make sure they are clean. Make sure your seniors have their hair cut beforehand. Manicures and coiffures will put them in the holiday mood.


Make sure that the traditional candlesticks are polished, there are candles in the house and the special holiday prayer books are at the ready. Put a festive tablecloth on the dining room table a few days in advance. Decorate with pretty holiday napkins and placemats in addition to the good china. It is what s/he used to do and will get the senior in the mood for the holiday.

Remind friends and family members to call and send cards expressing their wishes for a good new year is a good idea. Talking to people takes your senior out of his or her shell and is a good stimulus for engagement. Encourage him to reach out to family members and old friends. Prepare a list together and write down the numbers. It will be a worthwhile activity the senior can do on his own andhe will reap benefits of social engagement.

Make sure that the traditional foods are in the house including honey cake, apples, round challah, carrot tsimmes, honey, gefilte fish, and whatever holiday foods your senior is used to. Russian Jews are used to borscht on Rosh Hashanah. Jews with Middle Eastern backgrounds are used to other food traditions. Talk about it before and draw up a list together as you recall Rosh Hashanahs past. You can order takeout for most of the foods and prepare one special item together to make your senior feel youthful. Spend the time going through recipes for a trip down memory lane.

Whether or not your senior will be going to synagogue this Rosh Hashanah, make sure he marks the holiday with activities, sounds, and tastes of tradition. You will be giving him a participatory joyous experience and make him feel like an active member of the Jewish community, regardless of his level of ritual participation.

CDPAP Home Care Agency

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